It's hardly a secret, since the National Enquirer proclaimed our quaint New England town "Lesbianville, USA" in the early '90s. Perhaps it's something in the cool, clear mountain water, or maybe it has something to do with all-women Smith College. We're not sure, but whatever the case, Northampton wins the distinction of being the most lesborific small town in America, if not the world.
Of course, a good many of the lesbians in town got a kick out of the momentary stir created by both this article and by a feature on TV's 20/20, which also felt compelled to investigate the mind-boggling phenomenon of many, many lesbians living more or less harmoniously together in a seemingly ordinary New England town. In fact, a walk through downtown Northampton reveals a pleasant enclave of trendy restaurants, urbane shops, and worldly denizens. Same-sex couples and rainbow bumper stickers are commonplace, but lesbians are not quite the formidable army dreamt up in the pages of the Enquirer. Perhaps 3,000 folks (many of them gay men and straights) walk in the annual Pride march in May, and many more attend the subsequent rally. And in July, women descend on the nearby Berkshires hamlet of Washington to attend the Northampton Lesbian Festival, which draws some of the community's best-known female music acts.
Massachusetts was the first state in the U.S. to legalize same-sex marriage in 2004. Since then, marriage laws have varied state-by-state. Some states prohibit gay marriage; others allow it; and yet a few have settled for domestic partnerships or civil union laws as compromise.
However, recently the issue of who can and can't get married in Massachusetts has become even more complicated. Since Massachusetts allows same-sex marriage, can a person from another state get married there and have it recognized by their home state? What about bi-national couples immigrating the the U.S.?
Here are some key points about Massachusetts gay marriages that can help clarify the issue:
* With the repeal of Bill 1913, which prohibited out of state residents from marrying in Massachusetts, both same-sex couples that reside in Massachusetts and out-of-state couples can legally marry in the State of Massachusetts.
* Marriage licenses issued in Massachusetts are only recognized in the State of Massachusetts unless the state in which the couple resides also recognizes has legal gay marriage (such as California) or the state recognizes the out-of-state gay marriages of their residents. An example would be New York.
* Since same-sex marriage is prohibited on the federal level, the marriage of couples in Massachusetts or any other state will only be recognized on the state level and will not be eligible for federal level marriage benefits, such as joint tax filing.
Now that same-sex marriage is legal in the State of Massachusetts, gay couples (residents or non residents) can apply for a marriage license. Here are the steps you need to take before getting married in Massachusetts:
1. You and your partner must both jointly apply for a marriage license with the clerk in any community within Massachusetts. You must get married within 60 days of obtaining a license. Keep in mind that the license is only valid within the State of Massachusetts.
2. Pay the marriage application fee. Fees range from $4 to $15 depending the community in which you file.
3. Get a medical certificate from any physician licensed to practice in Massachusetts. Out of state residents can request a blank certificate before arriving in Massachusetts . The state requires this certificate to show that you and your partner free of communicable syphilis. It also indicates that the physician has offered the woman a voluntary test for susceptibility of rubella and has discussed facts about AIDS.
4. Bring your birth certificates. You and your partner must be at least 18 years old.
5. After you file your application, wait the mandatory 3 days before picking up your license.
6. If you or your partner have ever been divorced, you must show your divorce certificate. There are no requirements for widows or widowers.
7. You do not need a witness at the ceremony, but make sure you observe you and your partners religious tenets.
8. If you clergyperson is from outside of the State of Massachusetts, they must obtain a Certificate of Authorization from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth before the ceremony. You can get the certificate at the following address:
Division of Public Records
Secretary of the Commonwealth
One Ashburton Place, Room 1719
Boston, MA 02108
A non-minister or non-justice of the peace can perform the ceremony
9. You can get more information by visiting the Registry of Vital Records and Statistics.
Gay Bars in Northampton
492 Pleasant St., Northampton, MA 01060 (413)586-8161 Fax: (413)584-1321, www.divasofnoho.com Martini VIP Club with huge dance floor. Live entertainment, karaoke, theme nights, & pool tables. Outdoor patio & nonsmoking section.
Although Diva's is the only "official gay bar" in Northampton, the beauty of our city is - you can be out & comfortable in practically ANY bar! Northampton bars and restaurants welcome everyone - gay or straight.
Gay Shopping in Northampton
Northampton's Pride & Joy
150 Main Street, Northampton, MA 01060
Northampton Pride, Inc.
Held the first Saturday in May for over 25 years!
Explore Gay Northampton (Chamber of Commerce)
Gay Men of Northampton
Gay Northampton Press
Northampton in the Press